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From the club owner's perspective...

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Honeyboy
(@honeyboy)
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Not sure where this should go but I gave this thread a try...

If you ever want to be a working band it's good to understand the club owner's perspective. It took me years to learn what this club owner explains here...

Open Letter From A Club Owner

Rick Honeyboy Hart

"It's about tone, taste, and technique... in that order."

http://www.bluesguitarinsider.com
http://www.rickhoneyboyhart.com


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Yea, pretty simple. I worked in clubs way before I started playing music but it amazes me how many of the guys I have played with don't get it.

The band I was recently in broke up and part of the reason was the other guitar player said he didn't like the music we played and wanted to play more stuff like GNR etc songs with all these guitar solo's etc. But as much as I like to play some of that music too, it just doesn't get people dancing which means no one is going to be buying alot of drinks.

That article said it best it's NEVER about the band/music and ALWAYS about how much money it brings the owner.

It's really very simple not sure why so many musicians don't get it.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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EzraplaysEzra
(@ezraplaysezra)
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You want to make club owners happy - Become a DJ or promote your own music and bring the audience with you.


   
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notes_norton
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Back before it was important to be politically correct, and when it was OK to stereotype ethnic groups, the standard line used to be, "The bar owner only likes the music played by one instrument, The Jewish Piano."

The Jewish Piano is the cash register.

BTW, the first person who told me that was Lenny, of Lenny's lounge, one of the first bars I ever played in, and he was Jewish.

Insights and incites by Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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dogbite
(@dogbite)
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this is what I heard at our third gig from the manager. he liked our band because our volume was good and the audience, those sitting around the bar, knew the words to the songs we played. a retired radio DJ was an emcee at our fourth gig, an outdoors rural festival, and he introduced our band as a band ' you know the words to the songs they play ' .

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


   
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cnev
 cnev
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After reading this I guess it depends on the venue. Sure as a bar owner you really care only about what sells the drinks that's a main reason why DJ's are so big. They play dance music which obviously people come to dance too and that activity makes people want to drink more plus it's alot cheaper to pay one DJ than a 5 piece band. So I get it from the owner's point of view.

But it's not always the same from the listener's point of view or the bands. When I look back at why I used to go see bands it had nothing to do with whether or not people danced it was they played the music I wanted hear that's it. So I could get into a band rocking out Sweet Child of Mine and could care less whether or not anyone danced.

Now the secondary reason was to go see bands that brought the women there, actually that might have been reason number one. Those type of bands tended to have more "dance" music but not necessarily.

Not sure I agree with all the things he said but then again that is one bar owners opinion and it's hard to know where he's coming from without knowing what kind of venue it is he's talking about.

To me he's describing more of a wedding band scenario. Even though I agree with him it's about how much alcohol the band can push I would never want to be playing only dance music you need to rock out sometimes. If it was my only source of income then yes...you tell me what to play and we'll play them but as long as it is just a hobby I'll continue to play what the band thinks your listener's will like and the stuff the band likes.

Not sure what any of this means now that I read it.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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notes_norton
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The only reason to be in business is to make money.

From a bar owner's perspective it's to sell drinks.

From a restaurant owner's perspective it's to sell food.

From a band's perspective it's to get gigs.

A hired band is a small business. We compete with other small businesses, bands, DJs, and the home TV. Some competition is fair, some isn't (it's hard to compete against the TV).

The bar owner can choose whatever liquor vendor(s) he wants to. He/she will usually choose the one that give him/her the best service at the best price. Often budgetary concerns warrants a compromise.

The restaurant manager can choose whatever food purveyor he/she wants. He/she will usually choose the one that gives him/her the best service and the best food at the best price. Often budgetary concerns warrants a compromise.

So from the bands point of view, if we want the bar or restaurant owner to hire us, we have to give him/her the best service at the best price.

If you are playing for yourself, or friends in a public park, or in a garage, it doesn't matter what you are doing, just have fun.

But when you offer your services to someone and ask to get paid, you should consider what the person paying you needs and do everything you can to fulfill those needs.

That way you'll make money, too.

Insights and incites by Notes.

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Notes agreed, if you are making your living from it then yes by all means you need to understand the business side and all the things you say are 100% true.

If you are a bar band that does it on the side as a hobby then I think you just need to pick and choose the bars you look for gigs at. If the band has a good following it probably doesn't matter as much what kind of music cuz if they bring a bunch of new people to the bar when they play then the bar owner will see the difference in the register at night.

The bar I worked was very big and we had national/international and local acts play there. This was a place you never heard anyone playing Mustang Sally or all the lame songs people like to dance to. As a matter of fact there was never really anyone that danced other than mosh some times.

It was predominantly a R&R club so the music was always pretty loud but alot of things that particular club owner wanted would never happen. If a band showed up with some kind of matching outfits I think they would have been booed off the stage.

My point I guess is that what doesn't work at one club might be fine for another.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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Dan Lasley
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Don't forget to add supply-and-demand into the equation. Here near Philly, there are many more bands than bars, so it's difficult to get gigs, and they don't pay nuthin. Unless you're established with a reputation and a following, it's tough to get started - catch-22.

Conversely, back in CT (esp inland) bars were looking for bands, and new bands had a shot.


   
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jwmartin
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Reporting in from Nashville, home of a million wanna-bes who will play for free to 2 people, thinking 1 of them might be a famous producer. Gigs aren't easy to find around here and they don't pay much. Me and one of the guitarists went on a sales blitz this evening. We hit 6 bars that we haven't played before and dropped off a flyer with our info and a demo CD. The CD has 1 track with a medley of 7 songs. It's less than 5 minutes (about as much time as they are willing to listen).

We went in to each place, bought a beer and sat and talked with the bartender or manager about what we do, what their bar is like, etc. I borrowed a bit from this article and told them that we would work with them and announce drink specials or push certain drinks that made them more money. I made sure to say that we wanted them to make more money while we were playing than if we weren't. One place booked us on the spot without even checking our demo. He asked our price and I could tell Dave was hemming and hawing, so I threw out a range that is $50-$150 higher than we've been making. The manager didn't even blink and said that would be fine.

One place doesn't have live music anymore because they don't have sprinklers. Sad too, because they have a nice stage. All the others, we left our info and now wait to see if they get back to us. One balked at our price, but we said we were open to negotiation. She said they often do a base rate with incentives based on head count/sales.

Bass player for Undercover


   
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notes_norton
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Being commercial doesn't mean playing "Mustang Sally" in all bars.

Being commercial means playing what is appropriate for the venue you find yourself in.

There are a couple of ways to go about that. (1) Be versatile and (2) Don't accept any gigs that you cannot properly fulfill.

For most of us, it's a little bit of both.

But the thing to always remember, is when a person hires you, you are a subcontractor, he/she hired you to do a specific job, and if you want to get re-hired, you will need to do what the entertainment purchaser wants.

If you hired a roof paint contractor to paint your roof white, and the roof painter gets there and thinks "White is the Mustang Sally of roof painters" and decides without telling you to paint it red instead, how would you feel about it?

Each gig has it's priorities. One wants to sell drinks, one wants quiet background music, one wants dance music, one wants a concert, one wants you to bring in a crowd, and so on.

Back in the 1970s we booked a gig in a bar in Miami. The owner called it a 'business bar' and what that meant was that cocaine was bought and sold there. He said that the only reason why we were playing, is so the people at one table can't hear the deal going down at the next table. Funny thing about that gig, is that we made extremely good tips.

Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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Dan Lasley
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Just to follow up, we played a "showcase" last Monday at a club that books 3rd tier national acts on the weekends, but is quiet Sun-Tues. We emailed over 200 friends, assuring them that we would be done by 9p so they could get on home. Not withstanding a cold drizzle and the ever-expanding flu, we only had one friend there. The other two acts only had 2-3 each, so we were the audience for each other. That said, we played pretty well - the vocals were awesome! And we got video and audio to market with. Perhaps we'll get an opening slot at this club in the future...

Not worthy of a gig report, but here was our set list:

Wild Night
Secret Agent Man
Cruel To Be Kind
Mystery Achievement
American Girl
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Angel From Montgomery
American Band
No Matter What
Take Me To The River
Somebody to Love
She's Come Undone


   
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Moonrider
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Just to follow up, we played a "showcase" last Monday at a club that books 3rd tier national acts on the weekends, but is quiet Sun-Tues. We emailed over 200 friends, assuring them that we would be done by 9p so they could get on home. Not withstanding a cold drizzle and the ever-expanding flu, we only had one friend there. The other two acts only had 2-3 each, so we were the audience for each other. That said, we played pretty well - the vocals were awesome! And we got video and audio to market with. Perhaps we'll get an opening slot at this club in the future...

Getting people out on a Monday is a Herculean task. Especially for a band just starting out. Plus, "friends and family" can't be relied on for regular attendance. Figure on about 1% of your fan base coming out for any weeknight show if you're the headliner, and about 0.5% if you're not. Weekends you figure you'll draw maybe 2 or 3 percent as a headliner and half that as an opener. Even so, there's a million things that can make even that figure no more than a WAG.

So, one showing up for a showcase show out of 200 invites is right on target!

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


   
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katreich
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Wish I could have been there Dan!

Falling in love is like learning to play the guitar; first you learn to follow the rules, then you learn to play with your heart.

www.soundclick.com/kathyreichert


   
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Moonrider
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. . . and a specific reply to this "Club owner's perspective." Describes the way things were done around here when bands were booked for the week, not the day.
Dear Mr. Bar Owner,

It truly brought a tear to a glass eye to read of your emotional travails with live music and musicians. After I dabbed my eyes, and poured a nice bourbon to soothe my tattered soul, I composed myself and now I can formulate a decent response to your dilemma.

First, you have some gall producing all that hogwash when first and foremost - YOU have a business to run and it is YOUR responsibility to see that it makes a profit or not. Not the bands. Not the beer suppliers. Not the electricians, plumbers and janitors you employ. You. That means that it is up to you to determine first, what you need to maintain and grow profits. Secondly, how to pay for those business expenses which will allow you to do so.

It sounds to me like you have admitted live musicians are a worthy business expense. Fine. They still have to be paid for, as any other business expense does (HINT: look up the word "expense"). It is not your customers who are responsible for paying for them. Live music is a DRAW that brings in customers and often keeps them there. It is you, the owner, who must pay for that. I would bet you don't hold an electrician's pay hostage until their copper piping has proven sturdy. No, you pay that bill when they have finished the job. Without question.

Secondly, I see that you have a lot of demands and complaints about a band's appearance and performance choices. There is an easy easy solution for that. Back in the day when bar and club owners actually were not lazy whining screwballs, and took personal responsibility and PRIDE in how their business ran, they used to go out personally and listen to bands around town. They judged with their own ears and eyes on who would be a good draw, a good fit for their business. And if so, they would approach them personally, and make them an offer. I know this may seem astounding to you, but that's really how things were done. And it worked well. It was called due diligence. When you go out and do the proper research into those things which might help your business, you have not only taken active responsibility but you have no excuse to blame the bands when you know what they are about before they take your stage.

So finally, my good Mr. Bar Owner, it all gets back to the good old fashioned work ethic of running a business. Those things never change. Neither do ethics. I believe when it comes to paying live musicians, yours need a major overhaul.

sincerely,

a life long performing artist

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


   
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